New Season. Same Setting.
We’re a week into autumn, but our surroundings haven’t changed since spring. The Terrostar team went completely virtual on March 23, which means we’ve officially been working from home full-time for six months. Six months of no commutes, no hallway chats, no in-person brainstorming sessions, and seemingly no end in sight. But we have learned a lot in the last six months and we’re a better team because of it.
AS A TEAM
For most of society, the switch to working remotely was a quick one. In the office one day, and trying to adjust from two monitors and an office chair to a laptop on the kitchen table the next. Luckily for us, we had the option for remote work long before COVID-19 hit. But the change from sometimes remote to fully remote was still challenging. It’s taken a new level of focus, accountability and self-discipline to be productive as a team.
Clear communication truly is the most important aspect for successful remote work. Our day-to-day interactions have become more efficient because we do a better job of staying on task in meetings. We make sure to have a prepared agenda sent to everyone before each meeting, and documented next steps afterwards. There is also something to be said for not having to physically get to a meeting room on time. The Google calendar alerts us 10 minutes before a meeting so we’ve seen an increase in actually starting meetings on time. This has cut down on the pre-meeting chit chat and helps the meeting stay focused right from the start. And if we are chatting outside of a video call, we’ve found it’s helpful to have the conversations written so we can review what was said later if necessary.
This shift to fully remote work has also sped up the process of implementing new tools to keep us on track. It was easier to let go of old processes and methods that weren’t working well as we discovered how our day-to-day interactions changed. Since March, we’ve started using G Suite to easily share documents and provide feedback, rather than requiring everyone to use VPN or send multiple versions of documents with comments back and forth. We’ve also moved to LiquidPlanner, a new project management system that is better suited to how we work. It focuses on estimated time until completion for each project in queue and gives us a clear timeline for the project, rather than us guesstimating on each project timeline individually. This effort-based, rather than deadline-based, approach has allowed us to set realistic expectations with clients. And that is more important than ever as meeting with clients has become more challenging.
“It takes a certain amount of accountability and self-discipline to be able to work remotely and be productive as a team. Communication is most important for working remotely to be successful, our team is really good at communicating.” – Brad
“Before I was forced to work remotely every day, I didn’t like working from home because my only option was to sit at my kitchen table. I found it distracting and frustrating. My husband built me a desk in an extra room of the house and now I have a quiet, dedicated place to work. I have learned to love working remotely!” – Brenna
“I have learned to not take for granted uninterrupted time, and am far more efficient during those rare quiet times.” – Stephanie
“Working from home highlights the importance of continuous evaluation and improvement, especially where oneself is concerned because it’s just you. Rule number seven; Sharpen your saw.” – Ryan
“I have learned grace – with myself, my team and my children.” – Jayna
“Our team is self-motivated/driven, and naturally stays productive and connected in remote environments.” – Chris
“I think the entire team put a marked amount of effort into improving our communication and processes to make this work as well as possible. I would even argue that the communication is actually BETTER.” – Nick
There are pros and cons to every situation, and this is no different. Certain aspects of working remotely have made life easier, and others have presented new challenges. Listed below are the most common pros and cons we’ve discovered over the past few months.
- No commute time; saving money on gas
- Spending more time with family
- Meetings are more efficient, fewer tangents and we always have agendas prepared
- Increased productivity
- Often earlier days and/or later evenings
- No face-to-face interaction with the team
- Overlapping meetings among family members in a shared home office
- Client meetings are a challenge
We’re going to plan on working remotely for the remainder of the year. With uncertain school schedules and the start of flu season it only seems logical to continue the fully remote setup. As for 2021, we’ll just have to wait and see. But we know one thing is certain – we will continue to be the best team we can be.